The Calvin Report: Joyous Joe Root wins over doubters

Yorkshire batsman puts tourists to the sword after Bell stands ground in latest referral controversy

Lord’s

Steve Smith stood, perplexed, isolated and understandably troubled. He had effectively been labelled a cheat or, at best, an opportunist. Cricket’s capacity to conjure controversy, even on the most somnambulant of days, never ceases to amaze.

Ian Bell was within his rights to stand his ground when Smith casually claimed a catch in the gully as England were gently squeezing the life out of the Lord’s Test. It seemed a routine sequence, and stirred few passions; the Australians barely appealed, and ambled to congratulate the fielder.

He appeared to have placed his fingers, which were flat on the grass, under the ball. Since we no longer live in an age when a simple reassurance that the ball had carried suffices, Smith’s integrity was then implicitly judged by the third umpire, Tony Hill.

Bell, on three, survived to score 71 more runs. The crowd booed, and the moral majority rushed to ascend the steps to the pulpit. Their nerdy cousins began to get disconcertingly technical about the foreshortening quality of the modern TV camera.

A colonial poet with access to the official Cricket Australia Twitter account observed: “That decision sucked ass.” The hashtag – “bullshit” – left little room for manoeuvre. The apology for an undignified, unnecessary outburst was rapidly offered, yet the sense of frustration at the questionable parameters of technological influence will endure.

The last thing this Ashes series needs is another provocative situation, which tests the conventions of competitive courtesy between teams. The tourists, already facing potential humiliation on the fourth day of a contest that will sap their will, spirit and self-esteem, cannot allow any sense of resentment to foster.

Test match cricket is a hard school, but it is also a platform for old school cricketers of all ages. Joe Root, who possesses the features of a fourth former and the instincts of a playground bully, will remember the 202nd day of his 23rd year, when he became the youngest England batsman to score an Ashes century at Lord’s .

In the circumstances, he can be forgiven the gauche ritual of kissing the England badge on his protective helmet, after he had cut Ashton Agar through the covers for four to move to his second Test hundred.

Root deserves such indulgence because the doubters would have been in full voice had he not survived a flash through the slips when he had scored eight the previous evening. The instant judgements, following three immediate failures on his promotion to open the innings, would have been harsh and premature.

Joy propelled him ten strides towards the boundary where his younger brother Billy, an MCC groundstaff boy assigned twelfth man duties in a high visibility fluorescent jacket, was punching the air. Within minutes he was trending on Twitter. That was an appropriate honour, since even his nickname (Wireless, derived from wireless router, geddit?) smacks of modernity.

If someone at headquarters had a modicum of wit and imagination, they would have sprinkled white rose petals at his feet when he bathed in the warmth of a standing ovation at the end of play. His was an achievement which echoed from Barnsley to Barnoldswick, from Sheffield to Shiptonthorpe, across the People’s Republic of Yorkshire.

These are heady days for Tykedom. Yorkshire are on top of the County Championship, and Geoffrey Boycott has taken to telling our principal politicians how to do their job, when they make the PR pilgrimage to the Test Match Special studio. Proper criggit and plain speaking are back on the agenda.

Root proves the principle of an Academy can work in sport, despite the ruinously expensive mess football has made of its youth development. He has been earmarked for greatness since the age of 11, when he began to play representative schools cricket.

His example at the Yorkshire Academy, which he joined at 13, is stellar and being followed slavishly. A new generation is emerging. Fifteen-year-old bowler Matthew Fisher has been selected for England Under 19s. Wicketkeeper Barney Gibson, 17, is attracting rave reviews. Alex Lees, only 20, scored an unbeaten 275 in Friday’s win against Derbyshire.

Root’s remarkable progress is testament to measured, intelligent and effective coaching. He is more gritty and pragmatic than the likes of Kevin Pietersen, who was brought up on the reliable bounce of hard, dry pitches in South Africa. He has learned to improvise on Yorkshire puddings.

This innings, which will surely be extended into a double century this morning, has been studded with sumptuous straight drives, and examples of great technique under pressure. He has wonderful hand-eye co-ordination, and the ability to wait, to play late and effectively, which is the hallmark of the very best.

His ready smile disguises a killer temperament. For much of the day, play was the equivalent of a clearing up operation after a particularly wild party. The music was reduced to a background hum, and the previous night’s empties were being ferried to the tidy tip in a series of dustbin bags. It was quiet. Too damn quiet.

But once Root reached his century, he revealed himself as a stealthy assassin. The acceleration was instant, the aggression immediate. It completed the demoralisation of the Australians, whose body language suggested they will welcome oblivion, even if it arrives in the form of a series whitewash. For poor Smith, smashed for two sixes by Root in his final over, the agony refused to subside.

 



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power